Most music fans know that Pete Best was the original drummer for The Beatles before he was replaced with Ringo Starr in 1962. But do you know what happened to him after that? In honor of the "mean, moody and magnificent" Beatle's 75th birthday this week, we put together a retrospective of five notable aspects of Best's post-Fab Four career.
1. Game Show Contestant
While The Beatles toured the world in 1964, Pete Best did a little travelling of his own. He flew to America for an appearance on the gameshow I've Got a Secret, where contestants took turns trying to guess their guest's secret.
Best's secret was that he had recently left his job as a Beatle. Sadly, none of the contestants immediately recognized him. But based on his hair and accent, they immediately began asking about the Fab Four. Eventually, Betsy Palmer - who later played Jason Voorhees' mother in the first Friday the 13th movie - figured out that he was a former bandmate.
2. The Litigious Beatle
A year later, the old gang almost got back together - in court. Best sued his former bandmates and Playboy magazine for libel in 1965. The embittered drummer took issue with an interview in which John Lennon and Ringo Starr suggested that Best popped pills while in the group, and that his drug use got in the way of his performance.
The band settled the case out of court for an undisclosed sum in 1969.
3. 'Best of The Beatles'
Later in 1965, Best almost got into some legal trouble of his own. After leaving the Fab Four, he played with a few other bands and recorded his first album, which he titled "Best of The Beatles" - punning on his name and former fame. Unsuspecting fans complained after buying the record under the assumption that it was a Beatles compilation.
The confusion even led the New York State Bureau of Consumer Frauds to investigate the matter. But the issue didn't go any further, possibly because the title might be misleading but it wasn't an outright lie. Best was once a member of The Beatles, after all.
4. Back in the Spotlight
In the late 60s, Best began a 20-year hiatus from show business. For most of that time, he worked as a civil servant in Liverpool, helping unemployed residents find work.
5. Long Awaited Fortune
Even though Best didn't stick as a Beatle, his time with the band gave him considerable fame. But he didn't make a fortune off of it until 1995. That's when Apple Records released Volume I of The Beatles Anthology - a compilation of early recordings that included Best playing on tracks like Ain't She Sweet and Cry for a Shadow. The royalties netted him an estimated 4-million pounds sterling. Not a bad way to begin his golden years. It may have taken Pete thirty years, but he finally got a positive result on the business side of the Beatles. And who doesn't like money.
Here he is drumming on an early recording of "Love Me Do."
While the Beatles were all known for cannabis smoking (there are some great stories where they were introduced to weed by Bob Dylan, but then took it even farther as they got into the "Sgt Peppers" stage of their career), Pete was not a very vocal proponent of weed. While Pete may have lost his employment, he didn't seem like he wanted to break the law and come out in favor of a drug and industry that was much more illegal back then than it is now. It would be interesting to see how vocal any of the members of the Beatles would be if they were an up and coming band today. And anyone who is against legalization, but also a Beatles fan needs to understand that there's a good chance we may never have their music if it wasn't for weed!
One of the crazier stories to ever come from the Beatles hysteria that completely took over America, and most of civilization as we know it, in the '60s was that things weren't always as perfect as they may have seemed on TV. There was a rumor that a common theme of Beatles concerts were that they smelled of urine. Yes, you read that right, urine. And the reason for this was because of the hoards of girls who attended these concerts. There were so many of them that they were packed into the concert halls like sardines, and the ones who did manage to get the coveted spots in front were not giving them up no matter what happened. And while they would be drinking water in the summer heat, they would just refuse to move instead of giving up their spaces. And while they were trying to hold it in, once the band came one, and the incessant screaming started, these female fans would literally pee themselves in excitement. We could see this happening once or twice, but the fact that it was a theme of Beatles concerts is incredible. And this wasn't just a rumor, as it has been confirmed in conversation with other multiple people who were there (including future stars like Bob Geldof.
What's great about the Pete Best story, is that while it started out as a tragedy, it ended up with some sort of happy ending. Most of us, when presented with this sort of opportunity lost, would probably turn to smoking a joint, or whatever his preferred tetrahydrocannabinol, at all times. But Pete persevered, and carved out a fulfilling life for himself. And then in the end he even made a little bit of money from his time in the band. And he still plays music, which, at the end of the day, is the most important aspect of any artist, popular or obscure. And while there probably little chance that he will ever share a stage with the last living members of the Beatles, whether it's Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr, we hope that he's over that part of his history as much as he could be.
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